Shrewd piece from…David Brooks?
So why am I not more excited by the Gingrich surge?
In the first place, Gingrich loves government more than I do. He has no Hayekian modesty to restrain his faith in statist endeavor. For example, he has called for “a massive new program to build a permanent lunar colony to exploit the Moon’s resources.” He has suggested that “a mirror system in space could provide the light equivalent of many full moons so that there would be no need for nighttime lighting of the highways.”
I’m for national greatness conservatism, but this is a little too great.
Furthermore, he has an unconservative faith in his own innocence. The crossroads where government meets enterprise can be an exciting crossroads. It can also be a corrupt crossroads. It requires moral rectitude to separate public service from private gain. Gingrich was perfectly content to belly up to the Freddie Mac trough and then invent a Hamiltonian rational to justify his own greed.
Then there is his rhetorical style. He seems to have understood that a moderate Republican like himself can win so long as he adopts a bombastic style when taking on the liberal elites. Most people just want somebody who can articulate their hatreds, and Gingrich is demagogically happy to play the role.
David Brooks is a big government conservative, and he knows it. That puts him at odds with the GOP base, and he knows that too. In this piece, he puts Gingrich to his own left, even more at odds with the conservative base. Brooks knows what he’s doing. He’s positioning Gingrich to everyone’s left, including Romney’s. And the case to be made for doing that isn’t entirely off the mark, while it’s also not entirely accurate.
Newt Gingrich is such a mixed bag it’s hard to know where to start in assessing his true record. He helped scuttle HillaryCare. He balanced the budget for the first time in forever. He authored, and forced President Clinton to sign, welfare reform. These are all historic achievements for which Newt Gingrich deserves credit.
But he resigned in disgrace after being the only Speaker of the House in US history to be punished and fined by his own majority for ethics violations. He fell for global warming. He lobbied — despite what he says, that’s what he did — for Freddie Mac. He raked in tens of millions promoting big government health care including the individual mandate, all the way up to 2009. He called Paul Ryan’s budget reforms “right wing social engineering.” In an anti-establishment national moment, he’s the embodiment of much that’s wrong with the establishment. He is, ironically, more of an establishment figure than the incumbent president. That “crossroads where government meets enterprise”? Gingrich has occupied it for 30 years. And then there are the private life problems, which stretch all the way to the beginning of his political career. You can’t even argue that he has always been faithful to his next wife. He’s an opposition researcher’s dream opponent. His nomination would take several major issues off the table.
But at least he can debate well and swat the media. There’s no chance that either can wear thin and end up turning voters off, right?